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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Oil prices have swung wildly in recent days as traders grapple with two uncertainties — the Omicron variant's impact and OPEC+ output plans.

Catch up fast: Oil plunged Friday on word of the new variant and travel restrictions, with U.S. prices falling 13% and the global benchmark Brent crude by just slightly less.

  • But prices have regained around a third of the decline since markets opened again after the weekend.

What they're saying: "The decline in the oil price, over concerns that any new restrictions could impact demand...appears somewhat overdone, which helps explain this morning’s subsequent rebound," CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said in a note via MarketWatch.

  • That's the rapidly forming CW. Analysts from "Goldman Sachs to Energy Aspects said that the move was overdone and traders are now waiting to see how severe the variant’s impact will be," Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Oil prices affect costs for a suite of goods and services, ranging from gasoline to various manufactured products to shipping costs.

  • But their movements are also a window onto how a hive mind — in this case, traders — are viewing geopolitical and COVID conditions.
  • The uncertainty could last for weeks as scientists take time to evaluate the new variant and countries make decisions on restrictions.

The intrigue: OPEC+ has moved monthly meetings this week from Monday-Tuesday until Wednesday-Thursday as the coalition evaluates the effect of the new variant, Bloomberg first reported.

  • Whether the group would proceed with another monthly output hike was already uncertain amid U.S. plans to release 50 million barrels from strategic reserves alongside smaller releases by several other countries.

Go deeper: Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

Go deeper

Inflation microcosm: Used-car price surge continues

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Consumer Price Index data released Wednesday showed used-vehicle prices continue to surge. As of December, they were up 37% compared to the previous year.

Why it matters: Analysts have been watching used-vehicle prices as a microcosm of the broader U.S. inflation story, encompassing both the disarray of global supply chains and the surge in demand for goods.

Updated 9 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker